My Last Great Adventure?!

I’m excited!! My old SEEKING emotional neural circuit is really humming. Pumping out that dopamine and adrenaline it is. What is it I am so excited, pumped about? Glad you asked. This is hot off the press, so to speak: My bucket-list desert Southwest bicycling tour is back on! It It has transmuted to a two-month, cross-country bicycle tour going from Tempe, AZ to St. Augustine, FL, some 2,168 miles, plus side trips. It crosses both the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts! Cool. (No, actually probably still pretty hot in September.) I’ve got it scheduled for starting September 17, 2022. More on this below.

I had the bike tour idea about two years ago, even got me a nice touring bike, an R.E.I. Adv 1.1. Covid-19 got in the way. I had been riding and training at first on my old road bike and then got the touring bike, even had a lower gear put on it for the hills around here. Lots of mountains (e.g. Rocky Mts) where I’ll be riding. COVID hit and I realized it would be very difficult for me to take an extended touring ride for a number of other reasons. There were a lot of things in the way back then. Even during this period I continued to train though. After over a year of self-training and in consultation with folks again at R.E.I., I decided to switch to an e-bike (e for electric), one that I could tour on, a Cannodale Synapse. It had an advertised range of 150 miles for the battery between charges. However, that depends on how much weight it is carrying and the terrain. Wind would also be a factor out where I am going. I figured though, I am only shooting to average 50 miles per day. So even fully loaded and going uphill, I should be good. Just have to make sure I have a place to recharge it when needed. Don’t want to get caught short of juice. I love the e-bike, but felt like a traitor or cheating for switching to an e-bike. I still have the Adv 1.1 at this point and am torn between taking it or the e-bike. The Adv 1.1. touring bike is a much more comfortable bike, but, oh those mountains!

Between COVID-19 and the other obstacles, it looked just too much. I got discouraged and gave up on my idea to do one final grand bicycle tour, cut back on my training regime. Besides the hills around here were tougher than I was. After a year of training, they had gotten easier but were still a challenge. Enters the e-bike. I had abandoned my tour idea. During the ensuing months, several things worked themselves out and I got the e-bike. But I still had abandoned the idea of the tour until a few days ago when a synchronistic (C.G.Jung) event occurred. I got an inquiry about the A1.1, “Was it still up for sale?” I said, “Yes,” with mixed emotions: I really liked that bike!

I really like riding the Adv 1.1. It is a well designed bike and rides smoother than the e-bike. The e-bike is classified as a road bike, and is just not as nice a ride. It also can’t carry the weight like the Adv 1.1 can. But, by gosh, it will do those hills/mountains! If the Adv 1.1 doesn’t sell, I may yet use it for the tour. But going up over the Rocky Mountains, that pedal assist would really be nice. As you can tell, I’m torn. As long as no one offers to by the Adv 1.1 for what I want to sell it, I have the option. Even if they offer to buy it, I still might turn them down.

The e-bike is what is called a “pedal assist”. I can determine how much “assist” I want. It has four levels. I mainly stay in the lowest “Eco” level around here. On hills, I’ll kick it up to the next level, “Tour.” Had it up to the third highest level for about five seconds once getting away from a dog. Never tried the highest level, but I understand it really scoots. Of course, the higher the pedal assist, the more power it draws from the battery, which means it is draining the battery faster, etc. I ride it around here a lot of time without the pedal assist even turned on, but on the hills around here, it is really nice. I have a nice Buel bicycle trailer for it. Right now, I mainly use the trailer for when I go grocery shopping. It can carry up to 100 lbs and a lot of camping gear for my tour. I already have the camping gear I need for the trip. So, I am good to go for touring.

How did I get back on track again for this great adventure? It is a combination as I said above of Jungian synchronicity colliding with recent and ongoing changes at this time in my life. Let’s talk about the synchronicity first. Then, I’ll get back to more about the tour.

The synchronicity occurred just a few days ago with that inquiry. I am marking that as the official “restart” of my tour adventure. I’m in what I am calling,”The Planning Stage of the Preparation Phase”. I have had had the Adv 1.1 touring bike up on FB Market and Craig’s List for sale for a couple of months. The inquiry about if the bike was still up for sale was from a recently retired school counselor (LPC), James Gambusso. He and his wife had done a transcontinental tour 20 years ago, and he wanted to do another bike tour, this time via bike rail trails (old railroads that have been turned into bike trails). I hadn’t thought of that, bike rail trail touring, humm. We have two rail trails here locally, both of which I have ridden.

James said, he had kind of thought about maybe getting an ebike himself for his tour, but thought he might be interested in my touring bike. Alternatively, he might just rebuild his old bike and use it again, he told me later. I told him of my interest in doing a tour, but in the Southwest, maybe shipping my bike to Tempe, AZ, REI, doing a “Canyon” side tour of the sacred canyons in Utah, down through New Mexico, across my home state of Texas, and back home. He told me the Transamerica Bicycle Trail went through there, its Southern Tier. That got my attention! I had so far only a “fuzzy” idea of what route I would want to take. Here was an organization, Adventure Cycling, with a plan and detail maps! I was hooked and off to the “races,” or “tour” in this case.

As it turned out, not only is he a retired therapist like myself, but as we talked, he had even done some equine therapy psychotherapy work, and wilderness work with teens. I have been doing equine assisted psychotherapy with middle school aged boys for the last 16 years. We had a lot in common. Again, the synchronicity bell was ringing in my head as he talked. I found out later, he also had an interest in Zen. We connected on several different levels. What has followed is several additional conversations and email exchanges. James has been a wealth of knowledge. James also sent me a copy of his trip log note from their tour 20 years ago. Haven’t read them yet. I’m really interested in what sort of challenges they encountered.

As for the other changes that had taken place that are enabling the tour, I had closed down my counseling practice, so that was no longer in the way. Plus, I had figured out a way to replace a part of that income. So, in the future, my income issue wouldn’t be quite as critical. (Still have a ways to go that.) Enters downsizing, decluttering, and simplifying, and remodeling my old office suite upstairs as a studio apartment for rental. Now back to the tour.

As I get into planning my tour, I am learning a lot. I joined the Adventure Cycling Association and gotten a set of their Southern Tier route maps, all seven of them even though I only needed six. It was essentially the same price for all seven as just for six individually in their Southern Tiers package deal. The trail goes right through Alpine and Marathon, Tx, near Big Bend where I have been now four times and my two books’ stories are based. Then it goes through Johnson City and Texas Hill and wine country! Then through Austin, my old alma mater stomping grounds. I wanted to do a Big Bend bicycle tour several years ago when COVID hit. I since have found out that there is no place in the park to recharge my ebike though. Plus, it would add 4-6 days to my trip, I’m not sure I want to take. I’d rather take a few extra days and Foothills wine country, or in Louisiana eating Cajun and seafood.

I’m trying to get back before Thanksgiving and its traffic. Theoretically, averaging 50 miles a day, I could do all of the bike trip, 2,168 miles, not counting any side trips, in 43 days. I’m planning it for 60 days, or two months, Sept 17 – Nov 15, 2022, or so. The extra 17 days are for rest, repairs, and side trips.

I have also joined for lodging and maybe some meals. This is a list people I can contact in each town for a place to crash, take a shower, and maybe a meal–free! Haven’t started investigating yet. Some towns used to have places you could camp for the night. I’m not sure if they still do.

As I go through and look closer and closer into the tour details, a little negative nagging voice occasionally speaks out, saying, “Are you sure you can do this? You’ll be 74 years old when you do it, you know.” Especially in the wee hours of the morning. I tell it to be quite. I’ve had to listen to that voice all my life. It’s my mother’s.